Author: Maria Aponte
Accelerating Growth and Building Trust: Insights from Malik Yacoubi, Founder of Nesto
In a recent Fireside Chat with Malik Yacoubi, the visionary founder and CEO of Nesto, we delved into the fascinating journey of disrupting the $450 billion mortgage industry in Canada. With over $160 million in funding and a team of 350+ employees, Malik shared invaluable insights on moving fast, gaining traction, building trust, and shaping the future of Nesto.
Learning from the Past:
Malik’s entrepreneurial journey began with funding Mobilito, a mobile marketing company, and subsequently selling it to Cossette, where he landed as the Chief Digital Officer. While at Cossette, he learned about the importance of trust and managing a large team. These lessons played a vital part in his role at nesto, emphasizing the importance of understanding the digital landscape and cultivating effective leadership.
The Genesis of Nesto:
Nesto’s inception wasn’t a straightforward path. Malik initially envisioned a global B2B venture. However, Diagram Ventures saw the potential for nesto as a B2C, Canada-focused company. After strategic discussions and careful consideration between Malik and the funding organization, the decision was made to pursue the latter option. This strategic shift involved de-risking ideas and leveraging the expertise of experienced entrepreneurs, setting the stage for Nesto’s transformative journey.
Pioneering the Digital Mortgage Space:
After defining their target market, the nesto team advanced by creating a series of wireframes to articulate their innovative concept and secured a broker license, adhering to a traditional broker arrangement.
In parallel, and cognizant of the importance of partnerships to scale Nesto, Malik embarked on a journey to meet with major banks in Toronto along Bay Street, presenting their vision. Informing these financial entities about the development of their product, the response was a familiar refrain or a polite “We are already working on a similar solution.” However, five years later, apart from a few exceptions, the bank’s product landscape remains largely unchanged. Despite expectations of rapid progress, these institutions have made minimal advancements, contrasting with the dynamic trajectory of Nesto’s growth.
Go Fast or Go Home:
Malik’s mantra for startups: speed is crucial. The race against competition and market dynamics requires founders to embrace the ‘go fast’ philosophy. He recalls that nesto was launched with just a name, phone number, and email, focusing on their minimum viable product (MVP) and iteratively refining their model based on live customer feedback. The key, according to Malik, is to show traction early on, as it unlocks access to capital and meaningful partnerships.
Malik explained that beyond an MVP, they had nothing to offer in the backend. Their objective was to discern the precise resources required to generate a lead. Their initial product was then entrusted to brokers to assess its market viability and validate their assumptions. At the core, Malik and his team wanted to verify, “Could we sell a product for less than it takes us to acquire a customer”? This initial test paved the way for Nesto to construct its model and shape a business strategy centered on conversion rates and acquisition costs. By promptly placing their product in the hands of consumers, nesto proactively gauged the interest of their offering within the market.
Building Trust & Reputation:
Trust is the cornerstone of any fintech venture, and Malik stressed its paramount importance. For Nesto, this journey of trust-building unfolds on two fronts: with clients entrusting their personal and financial information and with financial institutions forming alliances to propel Nesto’s innovative vision.
- Client Trust:
At the inception of any fintech venture, the challenge is formidable—launching with zero reputation and zero trust. Setting clear expectations and offering a competitively robust product became their north star. nesto’s commitment to customer education proved strategically beneficial in the long term despite increasing their customer acquisition costs. This approach ensured that customers not only engaged with nesto’s offerings but also secured they understood the value they were receiving.
- Financial Institutions Trust:
To secure the trust of financial institutions, Nesto strategically demonstrated traction, refined its operations, and showcased its capacity to deliver tangible value. Malik emphasizes the importance of proactively communicating progress and market positioning with these institutions, when considering potential partnerships in the future.
For Nesto, the pivotal moment came when financial institutions, impressed by their traction and success, expressed keen interest in partnering with them. Malik stresses that approaching these organizations without established traction would have been a misstep.
Balancing White Label Partnerships and Brand Building:
Malik envisions Nesto evolving into a multi-brand entity, presenting a diverse product portfolio under different financial institution brands through a white-level service.
When asked about the potential cannibalization of his brand recognition due to their white-label strategy, Malik asserted that there is no threat to his brand or product. On the contrary, this approach enables Nesto to effectively target distinct market segments, thereby consolidating its positioning in the industry.
Final Nuggets of Wisdom:
Malik’s final advice for founders: Go fast, show traction early, measure your progress meticulously, and be transparent with investors. He emphasized the importance of presenting your journey effectively and cautioned against being too greedy in valuation negotiations.
In essence, Malik’s Fireside Chat painted a vivid picture of Nesto’s journey—marked by speed, innovation, trust-building, and his vision for a multi-brand future. It’s not just about disrupting an industry; it’s about doing it with precision, resilience, and a relentless commitment to progress and value for consumers.